Back in the 1960s authorities were very exercised that cells of violent hippie peacenik leftists were plotting to overthrow the Government and establish an anarchist hippie socialist dictatorship (there were no greenies yet). This would inevitably morph into communism, the dreaded embodiment of all evil.
The conspirators were a very small fringe of a very large but not very coherent movement that wanted more love, less war, less consumerism and healthier living. Oh, and some drugs and weird clothes, or no clothes. There was the odd kidnapping and a few small bombs let off, some of them doing more harm to the conspirators than to the Establishment, but the large anti-war movements did not automatically join the revolution and the whole thing fizzled. The hippies got mortgages, Ronald Reagan was elected, and Big Business resumed gobbling up the world.
Disaffection with old parties and old politics continues to grow, here and abroad. Unlike the US and the UK, however, progressive politics in Australia is hardly progressing. The Greens are the obvious standard-bearer, but so far they are missing the wave. It matters because the destruction of the informed, fair-go society and the sell-out of our sovereignty continue apace.
In the recent election the Greens pulled only 10% of the 23% of primary votes that went to non-major parties in the House. For the Senate, they got 8.7% of around 35% of non-major primary votes.
No doubt the apparatchiks of the Australian Labor Party are currently very exercised with how to counter the Turnbull Coalition Government. It is now possible to conceive that Malcolm Turnbull could comfortably win the next Federal election. Or perhaps the Coalition will tear itself apart and Labor will coast in. In these early days no-one knows.
But the ALP would do well to focus also on a more profound challenge, one that may turn out to be existential. The personification of this challenge is Jeremy Corbyn, who recently won a landslide victory in a ballot of members and supporters for the leadership of the UK Labour Party.
The current disarray of the Abbott Government may mark the end of a decades-long experiment in radical social engineering. The experiment has yielded deepening social divisions, an antiquated, colonial-style economy and little capacity to deal with the dramatic challenges of the near future.
[The recent TV series by George Megalogenis on how neoliberal market reforms allegedly saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis caused me to read his 2012 book on the same theme, wondering if any evidence at all might be found for such an unlikely (but widely believed) claim. I have written my response into the book I’m working on, as follows.]
Despite their mediocrity and failure, and their lack of basis in human nature or defensible theory, the rightness of free competitive markets is taken almost completely for granted in mainstream discussion. That was true when neoliberalism was introduced in the 1980s and it remains true today. Back in the 1980s, I would look out for the basis for the praise being heaped on the latest reform. All I ever seemed to find was the circular reference back to free markets, which were self-evidently good. The mantra of the open, competitive economy is repeated a thousand times a day. Such immersion can lead one to doubt one’s reason and common sense, so it may be useful to search for any robust logic in the daily deluge.
[This longish essay was just published at Real World Economics Review Blog. It is addressed to the “heterodox” community, those diverse economists of various schools that are not the dominant neoclassical school, though otherwise it is not particularly technical.]
Much of the current discussion of reforming economics focusses on the need for pluralism, particularly in teaching curricula, and very recently again on RWER. Pluralist teaching is seen as challenging, because heterodox economic ideas are diverse, have little coherence, and are to a significant extent mutually incompatible.
This theme crops up frequently in discussions on RWER. Now Cameron Murray, in the first issue of Inside, published by the Institute for Dynamic Economic Analysis, proposes to identify over-arching themes that can bring out the relationships among the various approaches. This is commendable but it will not, on its own, result in a reformed economics.
[Probably last post until Sept – see previous post. The tax-cutting mania may have started in California, so it’s fitting if CA shows the way back. It was always nonsense. The real reason is to shrink government. Governments get in the way of rich people making money, because a few of the things they do are good for the rest of us. Well, used to be good for the rest of us. So Jerry Brown may be among the most subversive people on the planet at the moment, because he’s showing government isn’t all bad. It can do good stuff. Of course the lesson will probably be lost on Oz for another decade, it usually takes about that long.]
How Jerry Brown Got Californians to Raise Their Taxes and Save Their State
There’s a case to be made that Jerry Brown is the most successful high-profile Democrat in America today. And there is simply no debating that, after four decades in the national limelight, he stands out as an intellectually dynamic and politically untethered leader in a time of gridlock, frustration and dysfunction.